#24 Destroyer: Labyrinthitis

Oh Aggie, your beating heart was a carriage made of gold
How the arithmetic of this guitar melts your heart is beyond me
And when I say beyond me, I mean beyond me
Love ya? I barely know you, it goes to show
Who really knows what love is?
The branches, the breeze, the roiling seas
None of it seems worth mentioning
Though I’m in the process of figuring it out
Even if it’s elementary
A scrapyard angel, wings of brass
Ash, a river called trash
And speaking of lifelike, this is what life’s like
You thread the needle, then the needle runs dry
You thread the needle, then the needle runs dry
“Inward Crackle,” says the fink to himself
Oh well, I wasn’t taught how to
Go off like a, go off like a, go off like a, go off like a
Go off like a hydrogen bomb
But I do radiate a certain glow
It flutters and fades, a Ferris wheel on the run from the snow
You have to look at it from all angles
Says the cubist judge from cubist jail
The sky glows, the heat is unbearable
Parrot weather
My decision is final, a crazy game
I traded in moonlight for the morning dew
I know dusk when I see one
I know rust when I see it
You come out swinging, but you go down swinging too
You pay good money for a million dollar view
Flipping the pages of Chatelaine
The rude empiricism of every troubled loser
Quote, unquote, unquote
A moment alone please
A moment alone please
A moment alone please
With this, with this
With this rhapsody
With this rhapsody
Vital information from where I’m standing
Low-born Madonna
With her typewriters in the rain
Clacking their misfortunes, speech, speech
A figure of light’s trapped inside your kimono
Absent friends, where’d you go?
And while we’re on the subject of psychotic passwords
Honing in on nothing
Everywhere Rome goes
Everybody wants her
Ah fuck, I feel like a discovery someone once saw
On a clear day
Dump him


Dan Bejar, ladies and gentlemen and others

Firstly, what do you think ‘labyrinthitis’ means? Yeah, you know, don’t you? I mean, it’s obvious when you think about it. If you have any cultural intelligence and any sort of critical thinking you’ll immediately realise that ‘labyrinthitis’ refers to a medical compulsion to wear the most distracting codpiece imaginable.

“Hey. My eyes are up here”

And how does that relate to the general lyrics of ‘Labyrinthitis’? Is David Bowie the ~Cubist judge from Cubist jail”? When Bejar states that he’s “Been meaning to wear my hair like this for ages” is he referring to The Goblin King himself? Or, from that same song, is Bowie the one pissing on the stage because the whole world’s a stage? Just, like, taking a piss, y’know? Well, make sure you’re sitting down, because ‘labyrinthitis’ doesn’t apply to the 1986 classic at all. I know, right? It’s actually “an inner ear infection. It causes a delicate structure deep inside your ear called the labyrinth to become inflamed, affecting your hearing and balance”. Firstly, my thoughts and prayers go out to anyone suffering from this infection, but let’s not try and politicise it by saying we should ban guns. Secondly, OK, we’re totally with you now, Destroyer, but how exactly does that relate to the wider themes of the album?? Like, during the The Last Song (which is literally the final track on the album. +10 points for that logic. Oh, shit, I haven’t given points out since 2017, have I? That was a good gimmick, why did I ever stop doing that*) Bejar states:

You fake say “hello”
And you fake say “goodbye”
You point your head up at the sky and say, “Wow, look at the sun”

You wake up, you stand up
You move to LA
You’re just another person that moves to LA

An explosion is worse
A hundred million words
And that is maybe too many words to say

(*it was a lot of work and I couldn’t be arsed. I’m a lazy, lazy man, reader)

And that all sounds… kinda loud? And there’s, like, a lot of dancing on the record? Is that where he’s getting his labyrinthitis from…??

Yeah, no shit…

Oh no, wait, Bejar himself actually explained why he chose the title, put all your poetic interpretations down, boys and girls and nimbies, we have it straight from the source:

It seemed insane to me. It seems so invented, like something that Borges would come up with, or from a weird Lovecraft short story. Does that mean you’re addicted to mazes?

Pitchfork March 9 2022

So, there you go. Brief translation: he chose it because it sounded a bit weird.

And that might be the general way to read all of Destroyer’s lyrics. They may sometimes seem oblique, they may sometimes seem impenetrable, they may sometimes seem complete fucking gibberish – and that might be all that they are – but surrounded by the music they always sound fucking great. Dan Bejar is the true ancestor of Shaun Ryder in how he can collate words, phrases and rhetoric together that might make little sense written down but absolutely sparkle when their words are used as an added instrument to the music. Speaking bullshit this well takes a real talent. Too many artists lose their way when they start to believe that lyrics always have to have a meaning and be about something. Nick Cave has grown considerably as a lyricist over the past few years when he became confident enough to not simply write to a strict meaning but realise that lyrics can simply be paint brushes within which you can colour certain themes. To me, the Gallaghers’ songwriting plummeted after they decided that they were no longer allowed to have a song’s emotional highlight be “Both my dog’s been itching/Itching in the kitchen/Once again“.

So, yeah, it’s all about the Italian painter Tintoretto. Or not. Or maybe it’s all for him. I don’t fucking care, and neither should you. This is amazing. Go and tell that to the man who cannot shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine.


2020 #5

Metacritic: 82

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